Marillion stick two fingers up to the RIAA, kinda

Marillion and the death of the music industry [bash].

History will see it [the music industry] as a funny little anomaly that happened between 1950 and 2010. While technology made it possible, advances in technology will also make it impossible.”

Steve Hogarth


While we’re on the topic of music news, I was amused to note that Goldie Lookin’ Chain are in this month’s Q Magazine. I will provide edited highlights in due course.

Blimey, I just nearly choked on a piece of chewing gum.

Orbital to split up

Shite – now I have to go to Glastonbury this year. What a pain in the ass. Oh, except the tickets have all sold out, and a pair seems to be going for 400 quid (and counting) on ebay. Screw that. Bollocks, I’d really hoped to see Orbital again some time. :-(

Hell’s burritos

Hell’s burritos.

Tetris is NP-Hard

I got slightly distracted by the October 2002 Gimboland archive, and came across something which might be of interest to my students, or even my colleagues: Tetris is NP-Hard. Here’s the accompanying paper from MIT. For the uninitiated, here’s an explanation of NP-Hard, not that you might be any wiser after reading it.

Black Books quotes!

Courtesy of the rather chocolatey Barbara, a site of Black Books quotes – groovy. I must download them and write a python script to turn them into a fortune cookie database, like I did for Coupling once upon a time. Rest assured that when I do, I’ll make it available here.

Ack, what the heck, it’s a five minute job so here we go: Black Books Quotes Fortune Cookie File. However, now that I actually look at the quotes, I dunno, they seem to be mainly long snatches of loads of dialogue, rather than the short pithy quotes I was hoping for. I may have to watch Black Books carefully and add some of my own.

By the way, if you want to use bbquotes.ft or coupling.ft with fortune, you need to run strfile whatever.ft first, to produce whatever.ft.dat – otherwise fortune is liable to complain. Anyway.

Minor and major injuries

We spent the weekend down in Cornwall with my folks – very relaxing. Bash and I attempted to recreate a little adventure I went on one perfect summer’s day when I was 11, tramping across some nearby fields (indeed, trespassing) in search of half-remembered landmarks which might not even be there any more. We didn’t find them, but did have a lovely walk nonetheless.

I bought my brother’s bike from him, and had a wonderful ride in to work yesterday, along the sea front from Mumbles, but perhaps I pushed myself a bit hard… I bent over to lock it up, and stood up again too quickly; I got a head rush, said to my friend Alex “I feel unusual”, and fainted, knocking my head on the top of a low wall on the way down. So now here I sit with a nice butterly stitch on my forehead and a couple of grazes on my cheek/temple area. Kewl. Everyone’s been very sympathetic but really it’s nothing.

It’s especially nothing when compared with breaking your leg on the way down Suila Grande in the Andes, being left for dead in a crevasse, and spending the next four days crawling back to Base Camp in excrutiating pain with Boney M rampaging round your head. But that’s exactly what happened to Joe Simpson, as we discovered last night when we watched Touching The Void at Taliesin. Absolutely fantastic, easily the most gripping movie I’ve seen a long long time, and oh so well filmed. Crackin’ stuff and highly recommended, even if you’re not into climbing.

The honeymoon is over

Well, the honeymoon is over, as they say. Fear not, however – it’s not that Bash and I don’t like each other any more, it’s just that, er, we went on honeymoon, and then came back. Ho1 ho1 ho1, had you going for a minute there didn’t I?

The excitement began the day before we left the country; as reported in earlier issues of Gimboland, I’d been to Barcelona just before, and on the way out of the UK the nice lady at the check-in desk pointed out to me that my passport was about to expire (in about a month). This would, she said, present no problem as far as travelling to Spain was concerned, but there was no way they’d let me into South Africa, apparently. Cue one hurried phone call to Bash back at Base Camp, who got online and discovered what I had to do when I got back… We returned from Barcelona the following Tuesday, and on the Wednesday off I tootled to glorious Newport to pay my ninety quid and get an emergency passport from the Passport Office. Now I’m as ready as the next IT professional to pour scorn upon government IT projects, but fair play, the boys and girls in Newport really came through, and three hours, one haircut, some lunch and a trip to the library later, there was my shiny new passport in my grubby mitts, and South Africa lay ahead. By the way, I can report that Newport Library, an oasis of calm and learning in an ocean of concrete depression and shiny leisure suits, has open internet access and, to my great surprise, enough security knowhow (unlike Barcelona university) to install a firewall which prevented me downloading putty and checking my email. I looked for a “java applet putty” or similar but couldn’t find anything which did the trick. Anyone got any tips?

Wednesday being a great success, we packed and segued neatly into Thursday. Small amounts of running around then we finally left the house at 3pm. Taxi to station, train to Reading, bus to Heathrow, plane to Dubai, plane to Johannesburg, meet relatives, collect hire car, drive to brother’s house. Total time spent travelling: about 26 hours. Yick. Still, we nearly bought tickets via Amsterdam and Nairobi, so maybe we got off lightly.

Our arrival at Jo’burg airport set the tone of the rest of the trip: I met some new relatives. There to greet us were Bash’s Mum, one brother (Lee), both sisters-in-law and all her (close) nieces and nephews. I say “close” because unlike us stuffy Brits, they use niece and nephew to refer to childen of their siblings, children of their cousins, children of their second cousins, etc. Also, cousin might mean cousin, or second cousin, or first-cousin-once-removed, or just a buddy. Aunty and Uncle mean Aunty and Uncle but are also respectful terms of affection for unrelated elders. As you can possibly imagine, Bash’s explanation of her family relationships got quite confusing, and I ended up drawing a family tree on the flight from Dubai. It took up about five pages and covered the close relations on her Mum’s side. We’re talking a big family here, people.

Gladly, as I proceeded to meet maybe a third to a half of them (ie about 200 people) over the next two weeks, they all proved to be warm, friendly, hospitable, and just downright nice. One thing her Uncle Yusuf (yes, really an Uncle) said after the wedding (in his “report” to the rest of the family) was that he’d felt that being with my family was “like being with a white version of our family”, and I came to see what he meant. Her close family in particular made me feel very at home, and I’m very pleased to report that I now have two lovely Mums.

By the way, my first Mum is in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, today having a hip replacement. Please send her a prayer/some good wishes/some positive energy/whatever you think appropriate. Thanks!

I won’t go into huge detail of the honeymoon here – I did keep a diary and maybe sometime I’ll write it up and put it on the wedding pages. I also have lots of photos of course, which I developed last weekend, but unfortunately the scans are rather “dusty” so I’ve sent them back to be done again. In a quick summary, though:

  • We arrived on the Friday; on the Saturday night there was a family reception of about 150 people where I shook many hands and really honed my skills at making salaam. Was a nerve-wracking experience but ultimately lots of fun and a good start to the honeymoon.
  • We followed that by going home and watching Devdas – ace!
  • We spent a few days around Johannesburg/Pretoria, meeting people and doing a bit of shopping (especially good: Rosebank Mall and its Rooftop Flea Market)
  • Road trip, baby! To Durban, on the Indian Ocean coast, staying with a cousin in her place right on the sea front – outstanding. I fell a bit in love with Durban, I must say; the sunshine, the heat, the humidity, the rain, the ocean, the people. Maybe I couldn’t stand it in the summer, though… I took some of my best photos on the trip in Durban, of surfers in the Indian Ocean, of Bash in the Botanical Gardens, of the skyline from a pier, … I will return. And again, such amazing hospitality.
  • Back to Jo’burg for the last few days, including a Hivemind meetup (ie lots of SA media and IT types) at a very cool jazz cafe, and staying the night at Bronny’s, who gave us a scare the next morning by pretending to break her leg – again!
  • A great picnic with all the close family at Jo’burg Botanical Gardens on our last full day, the highlight of which was Alicia taking her dog off the lead, saying something about it being “very well trained, will stay close if called”, and then watching (and running after) as it bombed straight into the water and began gleefully chasing ducks.
  • Lots and lots of really great home cooked Indian food. Bash and I relaxed our recently tendency towards vegetarianism for the duration of the trip, and were rewarded with some truly excellent meals. Thanks, everyone!
  • Bash’s cat Sienna approves of the union, and displayed her approval by bringing us a sparrow every morning that we slept at her Mum’s house. We’re looking into the logistics of bringing her to the UK, but it’s likely that the quarantine restrictions will be too onerous.
  • In Dubai airport on the way back, nearly succumbing to the temptation of Micky-D’s, but instead keeping the Adventurous Food flag burning by getting a Lebanese chicken biryani and kiwi juice which were excellent. Take that, Ronald!
  • I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but that’ll have to do for now.

And now of course, it’s back to reality. I spent last week catching up with everything I should have been catching up with over the Easter break, but there’s still a big marking backlog and loads of other stuff on my to-do list. Bah!

Postcodes online!

Registration-free UK postcodes online – fantastic, and much nicer than the official Royal Mail site, which they’ve managed to completely screw up. Wonder how long before they take it down, though… [ntk]